From a Teen-age Daughter   Leave a comment

Our Last Photo Together

Today would have been my father’s 92nd birthday.  Happy birthday, Dad, with all my love.

Reposted from my Journal of July 8, 2006:

During my senior year in high school, I wrote the following letter to my father as an assignment for the Creative Writing class I was taking. I don’t remember anymore what the topic of the assignment was; I only know that this letter was the product I created and read aloud in front of the class. Seven months later, my dad’s 57th birthday rolled around, and I remembered it in typical self-absorbed teenage fashion, like, that afternoon! I walked to the neighborhood drugstore that had a pretty decent selection of greeting cards. I purchased one but couldn’t find anything in the drugstore that was a suitable gift for a dad. I mean, a tube of Ben Gay? A bottle of Corn Husker’s hand lotion? A box of candy? No…. So I returned home and pondered what to do. I remembered writing this letter for my class and found it in my desk drawer. I ripped the teacher’s comments off the bottom of the second page, along with my grade (an A), and wrote in “11-8-73 P.S. Happy birthday!” This all seemed a little tacky, but I folded it up nonetheless and put it in the envelope with the card. I left it on the kitchen table for him to find.

After he got home that afternoon, he came to find me, with the card and the letter in his hand. “You wrote this for school?” he wanted to know.

“Yeah,” I said. “I read it in front of the class, too.”

His jaw muscles bunched up in the way that a man’s will do when he’s trying not to cry. His eyes were swimming with tears. He pulled me close in a hug. “Thank you,” he whispered.

So, my birthday gift to my dad turned out okay that year. Unfortunately, there were only five more birthdays for him. He died of a massive heart attack at the age of 62, on the night of July 7, 1979.

When my dad’s older sons cleaned out his house after he died, they came across that birthday card and letter in his closet and gave it to me. I wanted to post this letter yesterday, in memory of the anniversary of his passing from this life. It can be a chore to find something that’s been hidden away somewhere, though. I finally found it this evening and tried to scan it to keep from retyping it, but the scanning program doesn’t quite recognize the type from the old manual typewiter I used back in the spring of 1973. So here it is, retyped and unedited:

Your Number Two Daughter
Thursday, April 5, 1973

Dear Dad,

We so often get caught up in the bustle and routine of everyday life that we forget to tell people how important they are to us. Sometimes we wait too long to say those things, and the opportunity passes — forever. I don’t want to find myself in that predicament someday; there are too many things in my heart that I want to say to you.

There is no disputing the fact that our relationship has seen its share of disagreements, hostilities, and misunderstandings. It has also seen more than its share of love, open communication, and tolerance. I consider it extraordinary in those redeeming qualities.

Our relationship has demanded something special from us for awhile now. It’s not every dad who is called upon to play both mother and father to a teen-age daughter. That is a tremendous task for any parent to take upon his or her shoulders. But I have no complaints about the way you’ve executed that job. In fact, in many ways, I think I’m better off than many girls who have both parents.

I thank you for being a guiding force in my life and not a policeman. You have made life much happier for me by encouraging me to think for myself and make my own decisions. I was never a person who could be satisfied with living by other people’s decisions. I have a brain which contains an ample supply of intelligence, and I appreciate you letting me use it.

Open-mindedness and tolerance are other qualities that I love in you. It is often hard for parents to realize that as life goes on, it brings changes, and the world that their children are living in is different than the one they grew up in. It brings new ways of doing things, new attitudes, changes of ideas. You have tried to keep informed about these things and accept them as much as possible. You have been able to see your daughter as who she really is and have not tried to make her into something she’s not and force her to believe what she doesn’t believe.

Because I know you accept me for me and that you’re willing to be tolerant of the not-so-easy things to accept, it has made communication between us so much better. When I have a problem, want advice, or just need to talk, I know your ear will be available. It’s a great comfort to me to know that simple fact.

I thank you for treating me me as a mature responsible person, one who is capable of relating to you on an equal basis. It has taken all fear, distrust, and uneasiness out of our relationship. It makes your experience and advice so much easier to accept when, instead of being looked down upon, I’m being looked at eye-to-eye.

Yes, ours has been a very extraordinary relationship. It has demanded a lot from both of us to keep it stable. You have done a superb job on your end of it in making it good — I only hope I have done as well.

I will close with one last thanks: thanks for letting me know you love me.

With love,

Bonnie

July 8, 2006

P.S. Dad, I still think about you all the time and miss you so much! Thank you for the years that we had together.

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Posted November 8, 2008 by StPaulieGrrl in Family of Origin

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